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Cellular Organization

Investigation 3 – PreLab









Remember that all known living things are made of cells. Studying cells helps us understand how living things function.


Stem cell scientists primarily study how stem cells can transform into the various tissues of the human body. Understanding this information can shed light on how to treat cell division ailments, such as cancer and birth defects. Additionally, stem cell scientists look at ways to manipulate this genetic information to grow cells into usable organs and tissues.


This Investigation is designed to help you to answer the following Focus Questions:

  • How are the structures in plant and animal cells similar to and different from each other? 
  • Are all cells from the same organism the same? 

Note: These questions are located in your SDR at the beginning and end of the Investigation.


As a class, read the Background(s) in the Investigation. When finished, discuss the following concepts as a class:

  • Plant and animal cells are made of smaller parts called organelles.
  • The nucleus is the organelle that contains DNA and RNA. It is responsible for controlling many of the activities of the cell. The nucleus is located within the cytoplasm.
  • Cytoplasm is the substance that surrounds all of the organelles. It is contained with the cell membrane, the outer border of the cell.
  • Almost all animal and plant cells contain a nucleus and cytoplasm within the cell membrane.
  • Plant cells contain two additional major structures that animal cells do not.
  • Plant cells contain chloroplasts, organelles that are present within the cytoplasm. Chloroplasts are responsible for photosynthesis, the process plants use to make food.
  • Outside of the cell membrane, plant cells have cell walls. Cell walls surround the cell membrane and support the cell. 



The following list includes Key Terms that are introduced in the Investigation Background(s). They should be used, as appropriate, by teachers and students during everyday classroom discourse.

  • organelle
  • nucleus
  • cytoplasm
  • cell membrane
  • chloroplast
  • cell wall

Note: Definitions to these terms can be found on the Introduction page to the CELL.


  • Complete the Prediction section in your SDR. 
    • Before you view your six slides, use what you already know! Make a Prediction about the shape, size, and organization of the cells, and the organelles you expect to see in each slide. Discuss your predictions with the class or a partner. As you view each slide, see if your predictions were correct.
  • In Investigations One and Two, you began to observe cells and to understand how the preparation of a slide affects how the specimen is seen.
  • In Investigation Three, you will continue to learn how to observe cells using a microscope.
  • Play the video below. Remember to follow along with your SDR and make any notes that you think might be helpful in the lab.
  • After the video, divide into your lab group to discuss strategy for the lab. For example, you may assign certain group members to perform specific functions during the lab.

Note: The purpose of the video is to allow you to anticipate the laboratory experience you will soon encounter. You should leave this PreLab session with a firm idea of what to expect and how to perform in the lab.

Note: Homework is posted below the video.


You should review the Investigation and video in preparation for the Lab.